Foothill Bancroft Marker

Foothill Bancroft Marker

On Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena you can find a relic of the first road system in Los Angeles.

A Memorial to the first Freeway System of L.A.

The Foothill Bancroft Marker is an unassuming concrete block, almost invisible in front of a McDonald’s It’s something of an oddity, a concrete monolith five feet tall, one foot wide, six inches thick, reinforced with barbed wire and buried 18 inches in the ground.

It resembles a tombstone, which is sort of fitting since it’s all that remains of the very first freeway system of Los Angeles.

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The Giant Donuts of Los Angeles

The Giant Donuts of Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a town filled with donuts. And nothing says “we sell donuts” better than a giant donut sitting on top of a small shack. You can find five of these iconic restaurants throughout greater Los Angeles.

The Legacy of Big Donut Drive-In

Back in the 1950s, restaurateur Russell C. Wendell had a dream of owning a series of donut shops. And at the center of this dream, a giant donut floating above the donut shop. So that’s what he did — built a donut shop with a giant donut on top of it.

He called the shop Big Donut Drive-In and he eventually opened ten similar donut shops under that name throughout the greater Los Angles area. Each one was just a small, square shop topped with a 32-foot wide concrete donut.

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El Pino Famoso: The Majestic Symbol of East Los Angeles

El Pino Famoso

The Majestic Symbol of East Los Angeles

An unusual and iconic tree, visible for miles, stands tall at the top of a hill in East Los Angeles.

The Majestic El Pino

If you’ve ever driven down Cesar E Chavez Avenue in East Los Angeles, you’ve probably seen a large, bullet-shaped tree dominating the skyline.

This tree is known simply as El Pino (which is, of course, “the Pine” in Spanish), and its iconic shape can be seen from pretty much everywhere in East Los Angeles.

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Molecule Man Sculpture

Molecule Man Sculpture

In Little Tokyo, you can see a tall aluminum sculpture of four figures filled with holes in front of a government building.

A Brief History of Molecule Man

Sculptor Jonathan Borofsky first came up with the idea for a series of Molecule Man sculptures in 1977. As he tells it, “I was fascinated by this molecule idea because of the simple fact that even though we appear to be quite solid, we are in fact composed of a molecule structure which, in itself is mostly composed of water and air.”

Molecule Man: Water and Air. Photo from the author’s collection.

Over the years different Molecule Man sculptures have been installed in various places around the city (and the world), but the one most people in Los Angeles see is a mirror-like melding of four 32-foot tall figures made from aluminum plates that dominates a concrete courtyard in front of the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building in Little Tokyo.

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Sunset Pacific Motel – Bates Motel – Projection

Sunset Pacific Motel / Bates Motel / Projection

A once notorious hotel in Silver Lake has been transformed into a blank canvas by a French artist. But what’s next for this maligned motel?

Sunset Pacific Motel

When The Sunset Pacific Motel opened in 1964, it offered everything someone could want in a mid-century modern, Southern California hotel experience. A bevy Palm trees. A space-age inspired sign (a style commonly known as Googie). A colorful tile-clad exterior. It even had a pool. In short, it was a respectable establishment that offered visiting tourists a central base to explore the wilds of Los Angeles.

But over time, the three-story, 37-room motel fell into what can only be called a state of disrepair.

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Korean Bell of Friendship

Korean Bell of Friendship

In San Pedro, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, you can visit a 17-ton metal bell that’s a symbol of the lasting friendship between the United States and South Korea.

Korean Friendship Bell

The Korean Bell of Friendship is a huge metal bell that’s been on display in San Pedro’s Angel’s Gate Park for the last 45 years. It was donated to Los Angeles as a gift to the citizens of the United States in 1976 by the people of the Republic of Korea. There are three reasons marking the significance of this gift:

  • Celebrating the “American Bicentennial Jubilee”
  • Honoring the veterans of the Korean War
  • Cementing the friendship between South Korea and the U.S.
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The Dragons of Chinatown: The Chinatown Gateway Monument

The Dragons of Chinatown

The Chinatown Gateway Monument

Twin golden dragons guard the entrance to Los Angeles’s second Chinatown.

The Dragon Gate of Chinatown

At the edge of Chinatown’s southern border, visitors are greeted by two golden dragons cavorting majestically over Broadway. These twin dragons are officially known as the Chinatown Gateway Monument, but most people refer to them as the Chinatown Dragons.

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Young Lincoln Statue (and Law Statue)

Young Lincoln Statue

and Law Statue

Inside the U.S. Courthouse on Spring Street, you’ll find a marble statue of a young, shirtless Abraham Lincoln sculpted in 1941 and an accompanying statue depicting the ideal of Law.

Young Lincoln and Law

Many artists responded to a call for anonymous entries for sculptors west of the Mississippi put out by the Fine Arts Section of the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 1939 as part of the New Deal Art Program. The two statues would be put on display in the new Los Angeles Post Office and Courthouse.

But only two sculptors made the cut — James Lee Hansen and Archibald Garner. the resulting two sculptures — Young Lincoln and Law — still rest in their original places in the building now known as the Spring Street Courthouse.

Young Lincoln Statue

Young Lincoln stands in an alcove on the northern side of the Main Street Lobby. The eight-foot-tall sculpture carved of Indiana limestone stands shirtless and barefoot with a thumb hooked over the waistband of his pants. His other hand holds a book and the statue’s eyes are cast downward as if in thought.

The Full Lincoln. Photo from the author’s collection.

Sculptor James Lee Hansen, then a student at the Los Angeles Art Center, was only 22 years old when he won the commission, and Young Lincoln was the first large-scale sculpture he ever completed.

Being a young man who was on the verge of poverty a few weeks earlier, the first thing he did after winning the $7,200 prize was go out and buy a car. The second thing he did was crash that car. The third thing he did was spend 18 days in jail. Then he finished the statue, which was installed without fanfare in March 1941.

Hansen used his own physique as a model for Young Lincoln, which was called “gangly” at the time. When asked about Abe’s lack of traditional attire, Hansen reportedly replied, “… from a sculpturing standpoint, it’s better to show the body without any clothes. That’s why I left ’em off.”

Young Lincoln made a bit of a splash on Twitter a few years back when screenwriter Zack Stentz posted a tweet about the scantily clad emancipator. So while the accompanying plaque says that Hansen used his own interpretation of Lincoln, portraying him as “a man of deep sentiment and understanding,” Twitter used such descriptors as “The Gettysburg Undress,” “The Separation of Shirt and State,” “Baberaham Lincoln,” and talked about his “legal briefs.” Many other comments referenced the statue’s uncanny likeness to current California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Law Statue

In an alcove on the southern side of the Main Street Lobby, directly across the lobby from Young Lincoln, stands Law. Sculpted by Archibald Garner, Law is clad in a sheer longsleeved dress. Her right hand holds a tablet that reads, “No law is stronger than the public sentiment where it is to be enforced” (a quote from none other than Abraham Lincoln). Her left hand gestures toward the tablet and she, like Lincoln, is barefoot.

Law, the perfect companion statue to Lincoln. Photo from the author’s collection.

Like Young Lincoln, Law was sculpted from a block of Indiana limestone. The statue was installed on its pedestal in 1941 and has been standing there ever since.

Finding the Young Lincoln and Law Statues

Even though the two statues are installed on the Main Street side of the Spring Street Courthouse, these days the doors from Main Street are off limits to the public. You have to enter on the Spring Street side.

Navigating the building can be a little confusing. To get to the Main Street Lobby after entering on Spring, take the escalator or stairs up one level to the 2nd floor. Then find the bank of elevators and take elevator down to Mezzanine. Exit the elevators, turn right, and you’ll be in the Main Street Lobby.

Young Lincoln Statue and Law Statue

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Tom Fassbender is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. When not exploring Los Angeles, he’s been known to enjoy a cup of coffee or two. You can find him at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Taylor Yard Interpretive Project

Taylor Yard Interpretive Project

In the center of the expansive Rio de Los Angeles State Park, you’ll find a bench artfully designed with ceramic tiles that tell the history of the park.

The Story of Taylor Yard

The Taylor Yard Interpretive Project tells the story of the Rio de Los Angeles State Park, commonly known as as Taylor Yard, and the story of this land is as long as the story of Los Angeles itself.

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Pasadena Hunt Club Monument

Pasadena Hunt Club Monument

In a somewhat out of the way corner in the Angeles National Forest, you can find a lasting monument to the Pasadena Hunt Club.

Pasadena Hunt Club

Back in the late 1890s and well into the 1900s, the Angeles National Forest was home to the Pasadena Hunt Club, an august association of blue-blood Pasadena gentlemen who would retire to the seclusion of the forest to participate in British-style fox hunts. Or at least that’s the conclusion we can draw from a long-standing monument and remains of a stone building that can be found a short distance from the Gabrielino Trail, just beyond NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The Pasadena Hunt Club Monument in 2006. Photo from the author’s collection.

There isn’t a lot of information about the Pasadena Hunt Club. It’s not even certain how much actual hunting of foxes was done — although perhaps their quarry was obtained from the nearby Schleicher’s Silver Fox Farm on Mt. Lowe.

All we really know about the Pasadena hunt Club is that one Edmund Lockett had something to do with it, as evidenced by his name on the monument.

Presented by Edmund Lockett, possibly in 1927. Photo from the author’s collection.

Lockett owned a gravel and a cement company (E. Lockett & Sons) that used to be located next to the railroad tracks at 552 S. Raymond in Pasadena (it’s now part of a U-Haul Self-Storage facility).

Around the marker you can see the remnants of a stone house with a fireplace and what appears to have once been a small fountain. Nothing is certain about the site, but it seems quite possible that this was once the club’s lodge.

The remains of the Pasadena Hunt Club’s lodge. Photo from the author’s collection.

You can’t see this relic of a past age from the Gabrielino Trail, but there is a small track leading off the northwest side of the trail to the lodge. The site was always been somewhat hidden, but after the 2009 Station Fire and subsequent flooding that reshaped the landscape in this particular part of the forest, the monument was half-buried under soil. In recent years, however, it seems to have been mostly uncovered.

The Pasadena Hunt Club Monument as it looks today. Photo from the author’s collection.

Not the Valley Hunt Club

The Pasadena Hunt Club is not to be confused with the very similar sounding Valley Hunt Club, the organization that claims responsibility for beginning the Tournament of Roses Parade held each year in Pasadena. Unlike the Pasadena Hunt Club, the Valley Hunt Club still exists as a very exclusive club (with a cost of around $20,000 to join) hidden behind high hedges at 520 S. Orange Grove Blvd.

So while the Pasadena Hunt Club is distinct from the Valley Hunt Club (although they operated at the same time), it’s possible that Edmund Lockett could have been a member of both.

There are records of an Edmund Lockett serving as an aide for the Tournament of Roses Association (from an article in the December 31, 1896 edition of the Los Angeles Herald). In fact, according to the article, he was present in the second float of that year’s parade.

Also in Angeles National Forest …

A look inside the Dawn Mine

The Dawn Mine

Back in the early days of Los Angeles, gold mining was a common pursuit in the San Gabriel Mountains above Pasadena. One of the most famous mines of the times — the Dawn Mine — can still be found today … if you know where to look.

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Pasadena Hunt Club Monument

Tom Fassbender is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. When not exploring Los Angeles, he’s been known to enjoy a cup of coffee or two. You can find him at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.